Orlando City

Orlando City vs. the Philadelphia Union: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s biggest win of the season to date?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City conceded first once again but fought valiantly on the road against the Philadelphia Union to earn a much-needed three points with a 3-2 victory. The match saw three first-half goals and an Orlando City Designated Player open his scoring account before a wild finish on a field where the Lions now won back-to-back matches for the first time in club history. Here are my five takeaways from the match.

Who Needs Fullbacks?

Due to injury and suspension, Head Coach Oscar Pareja elected to roll out a 3-5-2 lineup for the match. With Rafael Santos and Tahir Reid-Brown out and Michael Halliday picking up a knock late in the week, the fullback position was thin. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson was available after clearing concussion protocol, but he started the game on the bench, as did Kyle Smith. Pareja used his wingers as wingbacks and dropped Wilder Cartagena to center back in an unorthodox formation.

I wasn’t sure that I was a fan of it as Orlando City conceded early in the match once again (more on that below), but as the match progressed, I became less and less skeptical. The formation seemed like it allowed Orlando the opportunity to quickly get numbers forward in a meaningful way that it has not been able to do in recent matches. Additionally, it seemed as if the formation allowed for better spacing on the field.

Another Early Goal Conceded

Despite a bright start in the opening minutes, the Lions conceded first again and found themselves playing catch-up. This time the early goal came from a broken play, as Orlando looked to counter off a set piece clearance, but couldn’t gain control of the ball while streaming forward. That caused confusion for the Orlando City defense when the Union recovered it and gave Mikael Uhre a relatively easy path to goal. Orlando City was able to punch back quickly — then eventually took the lead and never relinquished it — but the trend of giving up early goals continues to be a concern.

The Lions Responded

Orlando City could have rolled over and gave up after falling behind again, but instead the team continued to press and found the equalizing goal nine minutes after conceding. Nico Lodeiro took a pass from Luis Muriel and got to the end line on the left side of goal before placing a perfectly weighted cross to the leaping forehead of Duncan McGuire. It was McGuire’s fifth goal of the year. The Orlando attack seemed to be reinvigorated after getting level and asked a lot of questions of the Philadelphia back line over the final 25 minutes of the first half.

Muriel Opens His Account

Much has been made about the lack of goal scoring from Designated Player Luis Muriel during the infancy of his career in Major League Soccer. While one game is a small sample size, Muriel’s performance Saturday night was a sign that fan concerns about signing him may be premature. Muriel opened his MLS and Orlando City account with an absolute fireball of a shot from just outside the 18-yard box. As if to say, “Are you not entertained?” Muriel opened the second half with a quick run behind the defense, taking a pass from Lodeiro and slotting home his second goal of the match. It was ultimately the game winner. Scoring a brace in a victory for Orlando City — added to his secondary assist on McGuire’s goal — has to be a huge relief for Muriel and hopefully is a sign of more good things to come.

Lions Overcome Late Adversity

Despite all the good that came out of the match, there are about eight minutes of game time just past the hour mark that I would love to forget. In that time, Orlando City lost captain Robin Jansson to injury. Jansson ultimately required the stretcher to exit the field — a sight no one ever wants to see. The Swede has been the heart of the team for some time, and if this knock requires an extended rehab, then it will be a serious blow for Orlando City.

To make matters worse, the stoppage allowed referee Timothy Ford plenty of time to review the buildup of the play and, after he looked at the replay, he awarded Philadelphia a penalty for a handball on Lodeiro. Daniel Gazdag, who had never missed a penalty in his MLS career, sent Pedro Gallese the wrong way, bringing the home squad within a goal with lots of time left to find an equalizer.

Bonus Takeaway: Gallese Stands Tall

I couldn’t end this article without talking about the biggest moment of the night. In the 87th minute, Kai Wagner played a long cross through the box from left to right, where Ivan Angulo was running back to cover Nathan Harriel. There was contact, and both players went down. Ford pointed to the penalty spot, although it was a soft call. This time, Ford opted not to see the play for himself, and once again Gazdag stood over the ball at the spot. The Union’s talisman went left this time, but Gallese did an excellent job to read Gazdag and parry away the attempt. He then collected himself and made himself as big as possible, as Gazdag sent the rebound over the net. It preserved Orlando’s lead late and should do wonders for Gallese’s confidence moving forward.

That is how I saw things in a strong win for Orlando City on the road. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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